Wailin Storms – Rattle Review

As we who read, comment on, and write for this blog know, metal is a demanding mistress. Once she has her rusty meat hooks in you, your life is forfeit. She’ll strap you down on a table and perform unwarranted surgery without anesthetic. She’ll give you a three-minute headstart in an icy forest before loosing a pack of wolves. She’ll lead you into an eldritch horror’s cosmic lair, hand you a book of runes you can’t read to defend yourself with, and by Lovecraft, you’ll thank her for it. Other forms of music? They are verboten. Metal is a jealous god who is always watching. You can hide your Bjork cd between the mattresses or that Kendrick Lamar album in a folder on your desktop labeled “tax stuff” but metal will know, and metal will cut a bitch. Yet we at AMG do on occasion risk life, limb, and cred to journey beyond the outer edge of terra metallum to bring metal-adjacent albums to your attention. I return bruised and battered from such an expedition to present Rattle, the third full-length album of feral country-fried darkness by North Carolina’s Wailin Storms.

Five years ago, Madam X found Wailin Storms’ debut full-length One Foot in the Flesh Grave to be a tasty treat, accurately calling it a mix between Danzig and 16 Horsepower. Their sound, which has changed little in the interim, is what you’d get if you conducted an experiment on band composition. Tell the bassist he’s playing in a doom outfit, tell the guitarist it’s psychobilly, tell the drummer to play post-hardcore, and let vocalist Justin Storms do exactly what it says on the tin. For an album that falls somewhere outside the usual bounds of metal, Rattle is all hot-blooded heaviness. This is mainly thanks to standout performances by Storms, whose untamed wails capture all the frothing of a tent revival preacher, and Mark Oats, who abuses the drum kit with hypnotic and feral timekeeping.

On its standout tracks, Rattle bewitches with heavy psych trances, but this is no stoner jam session. Songs like “Rattle,” “Grass,” and “End” take a Southern gothic route to ritualistic pageantry. This is the music of haunted hollers and swamps, nodding to both doom metal and Appalachian murder ballad traditions. Lyrics like “Until they put us under grass, I’ll follow you with an empty heart. Until they turn us into ash, I’ll follow you with an empty heart” could as easily be accompanied by banjo and The High Lonesome Sound as by the clattering, swelling din of Wailin Storms. On closing track “End,” Storms remarkably channels David Eugene Edwards to set a terrifying scene where “the wind blows off all our skin” as a heavy groove crashes apocalyptically around you to a truly harrowing final collapse.

Taken individually, any song on Rattle would scratch the “fire-and-brimstone snake-handling speaking in tongues nightmare music” itch admirably, but there is a structural flaw to the album that sadly diminishes its returns. Nearly every song, with perhaps the exception of “Sun” and “End,” follows the exact same compositional path of stripped-back haunting intro, wild burst of menace, repeat until end of song. The aforementioned exceptions only differ in that they drop the listener in at the wild burst of menace part, but they still repeat the pattern throughout. Justin Storms’ uniformly urgent vocal delivery and an overly loud production only add to the feeling you have by the end of the album that it was all one song. Thankfully, the total run time clocks in at an efficient 35 minutes, but the lack of variety is a definite drawback.

Not long ago I reviewed Lord Buffalo’s newest, which is hewn from the same musical tree as Wailin Storms. Rattle is a much heavier record than Tohu Wa Bohu, and that will please many, but it’s the latter’s variety that gives it the edge as an album. Every song on Rattle is a good song, but one can’t help but feel it’s the same song. Still, the quality is consistently high and well worth your time if your taste tends toward dark psychedelic twang.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Gilead Media
Websites: wailinstorms.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/wailinstorms
Releases Worldwide: May 15th, 2020

« »